If you’re considering moving into a rental property with friends, there are some simple rules of engagement to ensure you’re still besties at lease end.
1. Set up a roommate agreement
For fans of the Big Bang Theory, a roommate agreement doesn’t need to be on the same scale that fictitious Sheldon Cooper foisted upon his hapless roomie Leonard Hofstadter. An agreement with many unfathomable clauses and subsections is probably overkill. However, before you start searching for a joint rental home, it’s sensible to agree to a few ground rules to avoid a big bang to your friendship.
Typically, all flatmates should sign the lease agreement. An all-in approach makes all roommates responsible for the lease and the payment of the regular rent. You must also agree on the amount of the rent and how it is paid.
One popular strategy involves each roommate paying his or her share of the rent directly to the property manager. This approach also makes it easier to identify tardy or non-payers. That said, in most cases, your property manager will chase up all roommates to ensure any rent arrears are covered regardless of the straggler’s identity. By paying individually, also no single flatmate is responsible for chasing up the rent or is left short financially if a roommate absconds.
2. Work out how you will split rent and expenses
The frequency of rental payments should be addressed in the roommate agreement. One housemate might receive a weekly wage, while another roomie gets his or her salary fortnightly or monthly. Likewise, it would be best if you determined how to cover utilities such as gas, electricity, phone and internet.
An even split between co-tenants might appear the common-sense solution however, if one housemate regularly travels for work, bill adjustments for electricity and internet might be required. Similarly, if another flatmate works from home for large lumps of the week, it seems only fair this person covers a more significant portion of the utility bills.
3. Agree to a cleaning schedule
Maintaining a rental property is the responsibility of tenants and is stipulated in the tenancy agreement with the landlord. Nothing rips apart rental households faster than quarrels over cleaning. Before you move in with friends, agree to a cleaning schedule. This schedule ensures all flatmates share the cleaning and tidying – and the cooking for that matter.
4. Set rules about overnight guests
Rules about guests and partners staying over is a must, and Big Bang Theory’s patronising Dr Cooper addressed this issue amusingly with the infamous “overnight guests notification clause”. This subsection of the Cooper/Hofstadter roommate agreement decrees that “there has to be a 24-hour notice period given if a non-related female is staying overnight”.
Once visitors turn into something more, there must be an agreement about how he or she contributes to the rent and other expenses. Also, if a partner joins the household permanently, this tenancy change must be communicated to your property manager.
5. Decide on what will happen if someone wants to move out
It’s a good idea to also include rules about how a flatmate can leave the tenancy early, especially if his or her name is on the lease. A roomie breaking a lease early is often a factor in the breakup of friendships. Before a co-tenant leaves, there must be an agreement on the length of time he or she continues to pay rent until a new flatmate moves into the property.
About Maria Milillo
Maria Milillo is Business Support Manager, Property Management at Raine & Horne.
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